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Black Colossus

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"Black Colossus" is a novelette by Robert E. Howard first published in the June, 1933, issue of Weird Tales.

Plot SumamryEdit

A godly command places Conan in charge of a mighty army tasked with saving a haunted princess and the kingdom of Khoraja from a mysterious sorceror.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1.
    Shevatas, a renowned Zamoran master thief, stands at the ruins of Kuthchemes, crippled by fear. He is looking for the fabled treasure from the tomb of Thugra Khotan, a sorceror who disappeared three thousand years earlier. Shevatas picks the lock, whereupon he is attacked by a huge serpent. Almost by chance, he manages to kill it with a venom on his sword that matches the snake's own. Having defeated this monster, Shevatas enters a room full of treasure. He looks up at a dais of crystal, is transfixed in terror, then screams, presumably having been slain by an unknown magical power.
  • 2.
    Rumours spread throughout the country of Khojara, recently devastated by the kidnapping of its prince by the country Ophir, of a desert sorceror hailed as a prophet amongst the nomads, known as Natohk the Veiled One because he always wears a mask. Natohk appears to the young Princess Yasmela as a shapeless shadow with blazing yellow eyes, who he promises will be his Queen, and that she would be unable to resist him in his bodily form. Natohk explains how he “sleeps in the palace chamber of Akbatana”, but his spirit has left his body. Upon his departure, a deeply shaken Yasmela confides in her maid, Vateesa, who tells her that she must seek the forgotten oracle of Mitra for protection. They go to a disused shrine within the palace housing a beautiful idealised statue of Mitra. Yasmela’s desire for help is answered by the disembodied, but reassuring, voice of Mitra. The god tells her to go outside on the streets and “place your kingdom in the hands of the first man you meet.” This turns out to be Conan, who at first takes Yasmela to be a “street-waif”, until he whips off her cloak and catches sight of her expensive clothes. She leads Conan to the palace, and he assumes her to be a lady-in-waiting, but Vateesa reveals her identity by greeting her as "princess." A startled Conan suspects a trap, but he is placated when Yasmela mentions the oracle. Yasmela and Conan discuss the military state of the kingdom; although the mercenaries are loyal as long as they are paid, the regular soldiers fear Khojara is a doomed kingdom, either by the military might of neighbor Koth or the supernatural tales of Natokh. As long as the country Ophir holds Yasmela's brother, the rightful king, is a captive, things are precarious in Khojara. As Mitra ordered, Yasmela appoints Conan commander of the Khorajan army, much to the horror of Count Thespides, Chancellor Taurus, and General Amalric. Ultimately, and with the blessings of the Agha Shupras, her councillors reluctantly agree to serve under him. In a moment of foreshadowing, Amalric exclaims how “I have seen kings who wore their harness less regally than you” upon seeing Conan in full plate armor.
  • 3.
    The mighty Khorajan army, bolstered by Amalric’s multi-national three thousand strong mercenary force, sets off to meet Natohk, the Princess riding with them. Yasmela seeks shelter in Conan’s tent from Natohk’s visitations, woken the next day by a conversation between her commander and a frantic Shemite thief from Shumir. He relates the tale of Shevatas’ death in the treasure chamber. His tale of Natohk’s unearthly power is so terrifying that Yasmela faints as the thief reveals a gold coin which he says is stamped with the true face of the veiled Natokh, a coin forged three thousand years ago.
  • 4.
    Conan’s army heads for the Well of Altaku, where Natohk’s horde is said to be camped. On their commander’s orders, the Khorajan army halts at the Pass of Shamla, held by the Zaheemi tribe, who join Conan’s troops. Conan arranges his forces into battle formation, soon after which a mysterious fog engulfs the area. The sound of a large body of men thunders through the fog, which suddenly lifts to reveal the huge army of Natohk. Count Thespides ignores Conan’s suspicion over the apparently disorganised enemy, choosing instead to charge headlong at the enemy lines. This turn out to be a trap, as the horsemen are all burned to death by magic in the midst of their headlong rush. This almost routs the rest of Conan’s army, but he maintains order by angrily smashing a would-be deserter in the face with a beef-bone. Shupras’s mounted archers slaughter thousands with their arrows, but Natohk’s troops remain unfazed, perhaps due to mystically enhanced bravery. Despite the continuing onslaught by the archers, their opponents rush on like madmen, ignoring even boulders thrown at them along the way. Conan leads a force of hillmen into battle, catching his foes in a pincer movement, having sent a Zaheemi to lead Amalric’s cavalry round the western ridge in order to descend upon their enemy from the rear. Though Conan’s forces overall had suffered heavy losses, this move routs Natohk’s army. The mighty Prince Kutamun of Stygia meets Conan for single combat, and almost overcomes him, but Conan eventually manages to stab him into submission. It seems that Natohk’s forces have been defeated, but Natohk himself is still fighting. His chariot, driven by an apelike demon and pulled by camel-like creature, rushes forward to kidnap Yasmela. However, the demon betrays Natohk, throwing him and Yasmela from the chariot before flying off to freedom. Natohk runs into the nearby ruins, where he is confronted by Conan. Here he reveals that he is Thugra Khotan risen again (‘Natohk’ is ‘Khotan’ backwards), and attempts to defeat Conan first by throwing a snake at him, then a scorpion. However, before he can loose the second creature, Conan throws a sword through his heart. The sorceror defeated, Yasmela falls into in Conan’s arms as he surveys the still-battling plains of dead, dying, and fighting men.

CharactersEdit

* Dies in this story

LocationsEdit

Continuity NotesEdit

  • Rufia's interest seems to have lasted no longer than the loot that Conan brought from Asgalum, or he may have traded her fora better horse before taking service under Amalric of Nemedia, mercenary general of Queen-Regent Yasmela of the little border kingdom of Khoraja. Here he soon works his way up to the rank of captain. Yasmela's brother, the king of Khoraja, is a prisoner in Ophir, and her borders are asailed by nomadic forces gathered by a mysterious veiled sorcerer, Natohk. - Conan the Freebooter
Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan: The Road of Kings
"Black Colossus" Next Story:
"Shadows in the Dark"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"Hawks Over Shem
"Black Colossus" Next Story:
"Shadows in the Dark"
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"Hawks Over Shem"
"Black Colossus" Next Story:
"Shadows in the Dark"
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
"The Hand of Nergal"
"Black Colossus" Next Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast"
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
"Shadows in the Moonlight"
"Black Colossus" Next Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast"

AdaptationsEdit

Publication historyEdit


GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

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